Over recent years, some have gone as far as to characterise farm attacks as a form of genocide. Particularly in Australia, there have been marches calling for something to be done in South Africa, and the Australian government briefly considered the idea of offering South African farmers fast-track visas to their country.
This was soon withdrawn after a diplomatic outcry from the South African government.
This week, in a written response to a parliamentary question from the Freedom Front Plus’ Pieter Groenewald, Cele and police commissioner General Khehla Sitole offered the first breakdown of farm attack statistics since they were last released in 2007.
These new statistics date back to the 2012/13 financial year and show that attacks have increased, though apparently the number of reported murders have overall been on the decline.
The police were able to determine their own criteria for what a farm attack is, and how this was arrived at was not clear from Cele’s statistics, however.
Since 2012, he said, there were a total of 3 059 attacks reported, averaging 510 attacks a year, in which about 56 farmers on average were killed per year.
North West had the highest number of attacks, at 722, followed by Gauteng with 644. However. in Gauteng, 69 murders occurred over the six-year period, the highest of any province.
According to all available definitions of genocide, however, farm murders do not fulfil the criteria to be categorised as such.
Groenewald nevertheless said in a statement on Saturday: “If these figures are compared to other available sources, then they seem to be fairly reliable. It is regrettable that these statistics were swept under the rug under the administration of former president Jacob Zuma.”
He said the FF Plus would continue with its “action plan to inform the international community of the exploits and particularly the cruelty of murders in South Africa by actively liaising with, amongst others, the European Parliament and governments as well as the United Nations (UN) through the FF Plus’ UNPO membership”.
Another minority rights party, Front National, quoted an Afrikaans newspaper article on Saturday in which Cele admits that farmers are being murdered at a far greater rate, relative to their size, than any other group in South Africa.
Front National said on their Facebook page: “Finally! After years of silence and denial, Minister of Police Bheki Cele finally admits that farm murders are disproportionately high.
“Next question – what are you going to do about it Bheki?”